How long will herbarium specimens last?

The earliest herbaria were portable, and consisted of dried plant specimens attached to sheets of paper bound into large volumes. These early herbaria were used as references by physicians who prepared many of their medicines directly from plants. If properly prepared and cared for, herbarium specimens can last for hundreds of years. Click here to view an image of a specimen collected more than 175 years ago by William Baldwin near St. Marys, Georgia. This specimen is preserved in the herbarium of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The oldest herbarium in the world is more than 425 years old! It is located in Kassel, Germany, and was founded in 1569. A few specimens in the Valdosta State University Herbarium are more than 150 years old.  For comparison, founding dates of selected herbaria are listed in Table 1.